He never holds back in the interest of decorum. The more inflammatory, enraging, or quotable, the better. Disgusting to many, a hero to others.
Usually unapologetic, there are some instances when Limbaugh strides so far over any line of propriety that he’s pushed to walk back his remarks. But the act of him copping to his misstatements only reinforces his powerful place in the national conversation. If he didn’t matter, no one would call for his “I’m sorry.”
One example of the power of Limbaugh’s wide-ranging sway came just last year. In the heat of a national conversation of government funding for reproductive health care, Limbaugh’s declaration that Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke was a “slut” and a “prostitute” for using birth control catapulted her to a prime-time speaking slot at the 2012 Democratic National Convention. President Obama called the young woman, who had testified before Congress and had urged that insurance cover contraception, to register his support. Limbaugh, facing pressure from advertisers, was forced to issue a reluctant apology.
The breadth of his reach has even prompted powerful figures in his party to kowtow to him. Recall when President George H.W. Bush, locked in a tough 1992 reelection fight and having alienated conservatives after reneging on his pledge not to raise taxes, worked to woo Limbaugh (and by extension his base) by inviting him to the White House for a sleepover. The president even carried his bags.